Free Gift With Shoulder Surgery: Hepatitis C, Man Claims
By William Dotinga
2-10-2013 17:49:00

(CN) - An Alameda County, Calif. man claims he contracted Hepatitis C after undergoing shoulder surgeries at the Kaiser Oakland Medical Center.

Christopher Gaither and his wife, Caitlin Lang, claim that Gaither donated blood to the Red Cross in early 2011, and his blood "was tested and came back negative for any irregularities including the Hepatitis C virus," according to the complaint. In September 2011, Gaither underwent surgery to repair a shoulder injury suffered in a bicycling accident.

During that procedure, Kaiser doctors inserted a metal plate into Gaither's shoulder. Three months later, Gaither says he returned to Kaiser Oakland Medical Center to have the plate removed.

"On Feb. 25, 2012, Mr. Gaither made another blood donation to the Red Cross. On March 9, 2012, Mr. Gaither received a letter from the Red Cross that was dated March 6, 2012, stating that the blood he had donated on that day was infected with the Hepatitis C virus. This is the first he had any information that he suffered from such virus, or suffered any injury at all that might have related to his Sept. 7 or Dec. 9, 2011 surgeries. Repeated testing has confirmed that Mr. Gaither had in fact contracted the Hepatitis C virus at that time," the couple says in their complaint.

Gaither says that another patient who had been operated on earlier in the day and in the same operating room where his procedure took place tested positive for the same genotype of Hepatitis C with which he is infected. Only 17 percent of Hepatitis C cases are of this genotype, according to the couple.

"Mr. Gaither contracted the Hepatitis C virus from contact with infected instruments, blood or other material during one or the other of his two surgeries that took place at the Kaiser Oakland Medical Center, and most probably the Sept. 7, 2011 procedure. Mr. Gaither's infection was proximately caused by defendant's failure to properly sterilize clothing, equipment, the operating table, surgical instruments or other material that came into contact with Mr. Gaither that were tainted with the virus from the prior procedure or some other source," the couple says in their complaint.

Gaither says that contracting the virus left him unable to work effectively for months, hampering his professional advancement at Google, where he works. He seeks damages for professional negligence and product liability.

The couple is represented by Carter M. Zinn and T. Andrew Davis of the Zinn Law Firm in San Francisco.